If you have children with your significant other/partner, but are not married, I strongly recommend that you enter a parenting agreement while you are together and getting along to avoid damaging complications in a break up. Most people do not take this course and wait until a break up happens before agreeing to decision making and a back up parenting plan. If you do not obtain a court order determining parentage and setting parental decision making and parenting time, there can be very substantial consequences. Without a court order providing that you will share decision making, one parent can unilaterally take the following action without agreement or consent from the other parent. In some circumstances, once the action is taken, it is difficult or impossible to return from it.
- Relocate with the children far away from the home that you shared together.
- Change the children’s schools.
- Change the children’s medical care providers.
- Change the child’s religion, complete baptism, circumcision, and other religious rites.
For example, without a court order outlining decision making and certain other terms of what is called an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Judgment, a mother can move anywhere, even out of the state of Illinois, with the children. This can involve disruption of school schedules and progress and obstacles to parenting time. Once the children have been relocated, it is very difficult to return them to their original home, school, friends and family.
Don’t let this happen to you. An agreed upon court order defining the parents’ rights can be easily entered in advance of a break up as a back up plan in case of a problem in the relationship. That parenting plan can provide both parents and children stability, consistency, strong relationships between parents and children and can promote the best interests of the children.